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Lectures on Don Quixote Paperback – April 18, 1984
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Top Customer Reviews
The present book is a bit different. He prepared only six lectures that he gave in the spring of 1952 at Harvard for the course Humanities 2. The aim is to describe and give an overall context for the work "Don Quixote." The notes still exist in six manilla folders and they are the basis of the present book edited by Fredson Bowers.
The course starts with a very brief introduction in the same style as the Cornell lectures with sketches of maps, etc. Next, he describes in detail the character of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Those are the first two chapters, or about 24 pages. Then he describes the structure of the book for another 25 pages, again with copies of Nabokov's actual class notes.
Cruelty and mystification are covered in a similar but lengthy analysis, followed by The Chronicler's Theme, and Victory and Defeats. The second half of the book is a chapter by chapter summary of both volumes I and II. In total, it is just over 200 pages of notes.
As Guy Davenport states in his introduction, the book puts most other teachers to shame who attempt to teach Don Quixote in a week. It is refreshing and detailed, and as Nabokov points out, this is an analysis of a book that evokes cruel laughter.Read more ›
Building up on the themes of cruelty and insanity, Nabokov points out that in 1600's both were enjoyed as entertainment. The raw cruelty of 3,000 lashes that Sancho is to receive, or Don Quixote's suspension by the hand for two hours during which he "bellows like a bull", or the sick pleasure that many of the book's characters derive from Don Quixote's insanity and from playing into it - all that was run of the mill fun in Cervantes's Europe. Nabokov believes that this crude entertainment was the main source of the book's appeal for the readers when the book came out.
The novel's structure (which in Nabokov's world is second only to style) is really nonexistent: "The book belongs essentially to a primitive form, to the loosely strung, higgledy-pickled, variegated picaresque type". Nabokov notes that the many inconsistencies in the book Cervantes seems to either ignore or simply attribute to magic.Read more ›
One quibble is that Nabokov seems convinced that Cervantes cruel/sadistic humor at Don Quixote and Sancho Panza's expense is meant to be funny rather than illicit the disgust which Nabokov emits - although I am not so sure. As Cervantes' narrator states, "in his opinion, the deceivers are as mad as the deceived, and that the duke and duchess came very close to seeming like fools since they went to such lengths to deceive two fools." Elsewhere he writes that "jests that cause pain are not jests and entertainments are not worthwhile if they injure another." Perhaps Cervantes was toying with his readers' internal sense of morality as Nabokov would do some 350 years later.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A most critical critic who is often insightful, but unable to appreciate slap-stick humor.Published 15 months ago by James Klagge
Great analysis. One only wonders whether, assuming Nabokov did not read this in the original Spanish, some of the criticism should be leveled at the translation.Published on July 18, 2006 by C. Amari